DAG, FIA issued notices on bail plea of detained French journalists -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

DAG, FIA issued notices on bail plea of detained French journalists

KARACHI: Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the deputy attorney-general (DAG), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and others on the petition seeking release of the two arrested French journalists on bail.

Accused Jean Paul Guilloteau and Joel Mark Epstein, respectively photographer and reporter of French weekly ‘L’ Express were arrested from Hub check post and have been booked in a case under the Foreigners Act 1946. A single bench headed by Justice Zawwar Hussain Jaferi also allowed an application for urgent hearing of the bail plea and fixed its hearing for Wednesday (today).

The accused have been sent before a judicial magistrate to face trial. Earlier, their bail application was dismissed by Additional District and Sessions Judge Nuzhat Ara Alvi with the observation that the their act of visiting Quetta without proper permission and in contravention to the visa conditions showed some ulterior motives on their part.

Their counsel, Nafees A Siddiqui has pleaded in the bail applications that his clients are working journalists and respectable citizen of France and have been falsely implicated by the FIA. Nothing incriminating was recovered from them. They were arrested from Karachi and they had a valid permission to visit Karachi. The counsel has pleaded that the applicants were apprehended on mere suspicion or at whims by the FIA and ex facie the offence alleged against them in the FIR is not at all of serious nature. “Visiting of a place, or a city, in Pakistan not mentioned in visa specifically is a mere irregularity and in absence of any mens rea is curable by grant of post fact permission/authorisation by the concerned authorities in Pakistan,” the counsel has pleaded in the applications.

The counsel has pleaded that the accused applied to the Pakistani Embassy in Paris for visas which were issued to them on September 29, 2003 which were valid up to March 28, 2004. They entered Pakistan for the first time on October 12, 2003 and after partly completing their assignment left Pakistan on October 18, 2003. For the second time they entered Pakistan on December 7, 2003 and were scheduled to leave for their country after completing their assignment in the third week of December 2003, when they were intercepted by the FIA (Passport Circle) and an FIR bearing number 270/2003 was lodged against them on
December 16, 2003.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has decided not to press charges against the two French journalists detained by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for visiting Quetta without proper permission and in contravention to their visa conditions, said a press release issued by the FIA on Tuesday.

The FIA has registered a case against Joel Marc Epstein and Jean Paul Guilloteau, respectively, reporter and photographer of French weekly, ‘L’ Express, under the Foreigners Act 1946 on December 16. Following the codal procedure, the two journalists were presented before a court and charge sheet was submitted against them, the press release said.

Presently, the journalists are in judicial custody. Even though the French journalists violated the law of the land, prosecution has decided not to press the charges against them anymore, it added.

The decision was taken keeping in view the historical, friendly and brotherly ties between Pakistan and France, the release said adding that the prosecution’s version would be submitted to the court on the next date of hearing.

The goodwill gesture of the prosecution would help strengthen the existing excellent relations between the two
countries, the release said.

Source: The News